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Today’s guest blog comes from Theresa Rizzo, a good friend and wonderful writer. Meet us both, along with Karen Joy Fowler, John Shors and many others at the fantastic Readers in the Rockies conference, June 20-22. There’s a writers’ conference, too, all organized by the Crested Butte Friends of the Library.

Join us at Readers in the Rockies!

You will find true success in those efforts that captivate your heart and soul.  Belief fuels passion, and passion rarely fails.”

I don’t actually travel that much because the writing schedule doesn’t allow it. However, after updating the schedule of appearances on my web site, I sat back and thought, yikes.

I’ve taught myself to travel light. Not out of any particular virtue, but because waiting for checked luggage to appear is too tense for a traveler who has to catch a ferry. Those extra ten (sometimes more) minutes can mean the difference between catching the 8:I0 and the 9:00pm boats. Doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but at the end of a transcontinental journey, trust me, it matters. So my rule is that I have to fit everything for a trip of any length into a carry-on-sized rollaboard, and a largish shoulder bag. This includes my purse and laptop. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come. My mother–who has been known to fly from Sydney to Seattle with nothing but a pocketbook–sometimes says, “Bring twice as much money as you think you’ll need, and half the clothes.” She’s right, of course.

Anyway, I would love to meet you! I have upcoming appearances in Bainbridge Island, Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Crested Butte, Colorado Ketchikan, Alaska, Sacramento and Cannon Beach, Oregon. Please see for details on these and other events.

…and killing two birds with one stone. Sorry for the cliches, but they apply. I mean, where else can you round up all these authors and get their autographs and raise much-needed money to support literacy programs?

C’mon, people, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Natick, Massachusetts this coming Saturday, come to the booksigning! Here’s the scoop:

NEC/RWA’s 14th Annual Book Fair For Literacy

April 12, 2008
4:00 pm
Crown Plaza, Natick, MA

Featuring: Susan Wiggs

Also featuring Suzanne Brockmann, Virginia Kantra, Loretta Chase and three dozen of the top historical and contemporary romance authors from New England and beyond!

Public welcome. Twenty percent of all proceeds to benefit Massachusetts Volunteers for Literacy


Today’s guest blog is by my friend and fellow writer/editor, Lori. You can meet her, Aubrey and Pam, and many other literary luminaries at the upcoming conference.

Aubrey, Lori, PamThe last weekend in April used to signify my daughter’s birthday was approaching. Now it means the annual Field’s End Writers’ Conference. Aubrey’s birthday is still at the tail end of April; we just have a new way of celebrating it. Last year was our first Field’s End experience. We stayed the night at the Clearwater Casino Resort – a treat for us. Not only did we get meaningful girl time, but Aubrey was especially delighted with the hotel’s accoutrements. We still have the fun cell phone video clips of Aubrey showing off the hotel room. The spinning chair in front of the vanity was particularly exciting.

At the actual conference, Aubrey was initially cowed at being the only young person in a roomful of adults. But the Field’s End participants are a very friendly lot, so Aubrey soon relaxed. We were lucky enough to land at tables with speakers Garth Stein and Robert Dugoni. They helped draw out Aubrey – and everyone else. Bob Dugoni “escorted” Aubrey to the first break-out session. Her workshop tastes ran differently than mine, and she evidently didn’t feel the need to cling to my side the entire day. When we did get together, I was impressed with how well she sat still. An entire day is a long time – thank goodness for Malachy McCourt! Even though she couldn’t remember how to pronounce his name, she asked me recently if he would be there again. Aubrey took away ideas from each speaker, but it was Mr. McCourt’s presentation she found most enthralling. No surprise! Later we had a grand time purchasing books and getting authors’ autographs and personalized messages. What a delight to see Aubrey bloom into a young woman and a creative presence. There are many, many things we learned that day and which remain part of who we are a year later. This year Aubrey told me that she would like to go back to Field’s End for her birthday (and she gets that this means not much else in the way of birthday presents!). So register, we did.

Aubrey’s writing interests are strong and deep, although she’s still not sure she wants to be a writer. But as some of the Field’s End participants reminded us, a writer is not something you become, it’s something you are. Thus, Aubrey is a writer, and a good one. She’s taking honors classes this year (sixth grade) and scored 100 percent on her most recent Reading WASL. Her Writing WASL score was close behind. She counts attending the Young Authors Conference at Skagit Valley College nearly every year during elementary school as one of her writing-related accomplishments. Children’s book author George Shannon is a frequent presenter, so she was excited to “know somebody” at Field’s End last year!My mom, Pam, has never thought of herself as a writer, but she is certainly skilled. She chose (was there much of a choice in those days?!) to be a mom, wife and homemaker. While I was at the UW, she earned her A.A. from Everett Community College. I always knew she was an excellent proofreader and organizer, if you will, of written materials, but I recently realized that she’s also a talented writer. She can deftly describe her own and other people’s feelings and motivations. Mom would disagree (LOL). Once she decides to believe in her skill and channel it to a specific project of her own, look out! For now, she is helping to research and write a book with her brother.

I’m actually writing the children’s chapter-book version of the same story. Although I’m an on-again, off-again kind of fiction writer, I’m still very committed to this story. My preference is to fix and organize words rather than to originate them. That’s the editor in me. My mom recently showed me a progress report from my first-grade teacher. I wanted to be a nurse, teacher, hairstylist and editor. How crazy is that? What six-year-old kid knows what an editor is? I evidently figured it out, and it has stuck with me. My mom plans to join us this year. Aubrey’s okay with sharing a bed with me, although I offered to have her and Grandma bunk together because Grandma’s skinnier than I am and will take up less room. We’ll see what happens.

It’s not long now until we return to the garden of the gods at Kiana Lodge, host to the Field’s End Writers’ Conference. I should ask Aubrey how many days until our adventure begins. She’ll know. Aubrey & Lori at the Field’s End conference

Stephanie KallosSeattle author Stephanie Kallos is a born storyteller. After all, she grew up in a place where sofas fly–Nebraska’s “tornado alley.” She’s also been an actress, a teacher and a nominee for both a Raymond Carver Award and a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction. Her incredibly charming first novel, BROKEN FOR YOU, was a selection of the Today Show book club, propelling her onto bestseller lists and into book clubs nationwide. Other honors ensued, making this novel one of the most auspicious debuts in publishing–A Book Sense Selection, a Library Journal Best First Novelist of 2005, winner of a 2005 Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Award and a Quill Book Award finalist for Debut Author of the Year.
Broken For YouSo while her talent is not in doubt, none of that tells you how funny and down-to-earth she is. For that, you have to visit her web site and read her bio. Or better yet, meet her in person at the Field’s End Writer’s Conference on Saturday, April 26.
Like most every writer you’ll meet, Stephanie is a lifelong library patron. “I remember the first library my mother took me to in Lincoln, Nebraska–which is where we moved when I was five. It was only a couple of blocks from my father’s office and we would walk there after visiting him.
“They had something called ‘viewfinders’–you see these in antique stores now. You slipped a thick, cardboard card bearing a photo into the back of these goggle-looking devices. They gave a sort of 3-D look to the scenes. I actually wrote a 1960’s-era library scene in my new book and included these – along with a mean-spirited, censorious small town librarian who is absolutely nothing like [Seattle’s über-librarian] Nancy Pearl.”
cover art for Sing Them HomeRegarding that new novel, it’s called SING THEM HOME and is slated for publication from Grove later this year. Stephanie’s working title on the book–for years–was HOPE’S WHEELCHAIR. “My publisher hated that title,” she admits. “In retrospect, I can understand why. Bit of a downer.” Ultimately, her editor’s assistant came up with the final title.
For a long time, Stephanie believed it would be her first novel. The germ of the idea originated with a 1974 National Geographic photo. “Until I was five, we lived in a very small town in southeastern Nebraska in that swath of territory known as ‘tornado alley.’ My mother’s best friend, Hope, lived on a farm a few miles outside of town. In one of those examples of random tornadic behavior, a funnel cloud bypassed the farmhouse across the highway and then drove northeast directly into Hope’s farmhouse, destroying it completely. Hope was home (she suffered from MS and was confined to a wheelchair) along with her youngest child. She was badly hurt, but the baby was found wandering the fields, wearing a diaper, slightly scratched but otherwise unharmed.
“The photo – which was taken in a milo field about four miles away, near Blue Springs – shows a farmer leaning over the remains of Hope’s grand piano. It’s the only thing that came down in any kind of recognizable form. My mother used to say, ‘How can a deep freeze just disappear? How can a refrigerator just disappear?’ This is the kind of magic one lives with in tornado alley. I heard one author describe magical realism as ‘sofas that fly.’ In Nebraska, sofas fly all the time.
“The story centers on three siblings – Larken, Gaelan, and Bonnie Jones – who grew up in a fictional town in SE Nebraska called Emlyn Springs. When they were 13, 12, and 7 years old, their mother Hope was carried up in a tornado and never came down. It’s about the special kind of grief that surrounds such a loss (i.e., one which leaves no gift of bones) and how that grief has resonated throughout their lives and informed their identities.
“I’d like to think that anyone who has struggled with the strangeness of grief will be engaged – and hopefully comforted – by the characters’ journeys.”
Stephanie is a working mother, and juggles family and writing with grace and a writer’s eccentricity. “There are times when I’m at my desk from 9 until 4, a schedule which aligns with when my kids get on and off the bus. There are other days when family obligations mean I can only squeeze in some journal-writing, or tinker with a paragraph, a sentence, the placement of a semi-colon. I do tend to get very grumpy if I don’t set aside time to write at least a little bit every day.
“On the other hand, it’s extremely counter-productive to allow writing to become punitive, an exercise in punching the time card. I really have to guard against that, as I’m somewhat hard-wired for self-punishment. Sometimes inspiration comes when I’m taking an early morning walk, driving to the grocery store, standing in line at Starbucks, or running errands. One must be constantly open for business. When in the middle of a book, I’m really thinking about my characters all the time. If someone makes the mistake of asking me how I’m doing, I usually launch into a description of how my characters are doing; I don’t stop until I notice my friend’s glazed, slightly concerned expression. For me, being a writer involves cultivating a benign form of schizophrenia. I have notepads everywhere; I adopted this practice years ago after reading an interview with Anne Tyler, who raised four kids while writing her early novels. Yes, being a writer consists largely of applying the seat of one’s pants to the seat of the chair, but there’s a quality of attention one must maintain, a continual vigilance/readiness to receive the odd idea/inspiration.”
“In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion remembers, ‘Had [my husband] not warned me when I forgot my own notebook that the ability to make a note when something came to mind was the difference between being able to write and not being able to write?’”
Stephanie is an avid and eclectic reader. She’s a huge fan of the Salinger oeuvre, Anne Tyler, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp, and The Cider House Rules. “My dear friend Sheri Holman writes brilliant books; I’ve learned so much from her. I’ve also learned a great deal from Myla Goldberg, Ian McEwan, A.S. Byatt. Lately – as I await feedback from my editor on the latest draft of Sing Them Home – I’ve been indulging in thrillers: Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick, and the Japanese novelists. I really like a change-up when it comes to reading.
“In terms of my work on Sing and exploring the landscape of grief, the greatest writer-to-writer gift came from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. My father died suddenly a few months after the publication of my first novel; my mom followed him a year later, almost to the day. Ms. Didion helped me understand why my mother was able to donate all of Dad’s clothes to the Goodwill but left his shoes in the closet: How else would he be able to walk home to her?”
In addition to writing, Stephanie is a knitter. “It’s a tremendously valuable discipline in terms of reminding me of what writing is about and how a book is built: stitch by stitch, row by row, occasionally having to unravel everything you’ve done and start over.”
Stephanie Kallos has a lot more to share. She is this year’s opening speaker at the April 26th conference.

Lit Up at the Library

Roy Blount, Jr. is one of the country’s most distinguished men of letters. Add –ist to almost any form of writing, and he’s been there, done that–journalist, novelist, humorist, panelist…And he’s also written plays, biographies, memoirs and screenplays. He starred a PBS documentary (“The Main Stream“), is a regular on NPR’s game show, “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and occasionally performs in the literary-themed band, the Rock Bottom Remainders with Stephen King, Dave Barry, Amy Tan and other writers.

But like all writers, his journey began at the public library. “My childhood library, in Decatur, Georgia, was a large grey-stone building, which is still there but greatly expanded and better lit inside,” Roy says. “The old one was lit well enough for me, the books lit it up, and I wanted to read all of them. Lots of orange biographies of pioneers, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett and Kit Carson. I can’t remember reading any biographies of anybody who didn’t wear buckskin. I read all the Oz books, and the Dr. Doolittle books. It was a family joke that when I was a little boy in the library I would get so excited I would have to go to the bathroom real bad and be dancing around not wanting to leave the books. I guess that is not a very delicate story, but there it is.”

With memories like that, how could he not grow up to be president of the Authors Guild and a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers? And with a writer’s voice like that, how could we not invite him to be the keynote speaker at our spring conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods“?Roy Blount Jr [

Photo credit Valerie Shaff]

Another library memory can be found in Roy’s latest book, Long Time Leaving: Dispatches From Up South:

One afternoon I was in the library of a small town in Mississippi, in need of some information, so I went up to the lady behind the desk there. Ahead of me were an elderly white man and a young black woman. The white man was saying:

“….just hit me suddenly, you know, that I wanted somethin’, and then….it hit me what it was. That I wanted. It was pie.”

“Well,” said the lady behind the desk.

“A piece a pie. It’s funny cause u-sually I don’t want pie, this time a day. But I did, that’s exactly what it was, that I wanted. But I couldn’t think who would have pie…this time a day.”

“Uh-hmmm,” said the librarian.

“Miz Boyd a course serves extremely fine pie. But a course Miz Boyd wouldn’t be open…”

“I was goin’ to say,” said the librarian.

“…this time a day. So I said to myself, I said, ‘Now Wawltuh, where in town would they be liable to know…where a body could get a piece a pie.'”

“Mm-hm,” said the librarian, looking thoughtful. “This time a day.”

“I said, ‘Well I tell you where somebody is liable to know. At the li-berry.’ So I told myself that what I would do would be to just come on over here and….”

“I declare, Mr. Owsley, I don’t believe I know…where….” She raised her voice: “IOTA?”

A faint voice came from back in the stacks: “Uh-huhhhhh?”


“You mean…this time a day?”

At that point the young black woman stepped forward and said, “’Scuse me, do you have anything about the Army? ’Cause I got to get out of this damn town.”

Roy will be joined by Pulitzer-prize and National Book Award winner Timothy Egan, bestselling novelist Stephanie Kallos and other distinguished guests at Kiana Lodge on April 26. Registration for the event opens on February 1, so get out that calendar you got for Christmas and write it down now. Better yet, subscribe to the free e-newsletter at For further information about the conference, please see


Field’s End Writers’ Conference 2008Photo by s.j. luke, onsetimagery

WHO: This year’s line-up of authors and speakers includes: Roy Blount, Jr. (keynote speaker), Stephanie Kallos (opening speaker), Knute Berger, Alice Acheson, Lyall Bush, Laura Kalpakian, Thomas Kohnstamm, Rosina Lippi aka Sara Donati, Jennifer Louden, Nancy Pagh, George Shannon, Charley Pavlosky, Sheila Rabe aka Sheila Roberts, Suzanne Selfors, David Wagoner, and Timothy Egan (closing speaker). Professional actor Ron Milton will be on hand for the Page One sessions.

WHAT: Third annual Field’s End Writers’ Conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods.”

WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 2008
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Kiana Lodge
14976 Sandy Hook Rd. NE
Poulsbo, WA 98370

DETAILS: This one-day conference, held at the spectacularly beautiful Kiana Lodge near Bainbridge Island, is a combination of lectures and breakout sessions presented by an eclectic group of people in the literary world.

The day offers three groupings of breakout sessions. Guests will select three workshops to attend according to their interest (literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screen writing, dialogue, genre, travel writing, editing, journalism, historical fiction, and commercial fiction). Each breakout session will also offer a Page One workshop, where conference guests can anonymously submit the first page of something they’ve written for possible live reading and critique by the guest authors.

Lunch is provided and there will be an early evening wine and cheese reception and book signing providing conference guests, authors, and speakers a chance to mingle. Shuttle buses will be available to carry walk-on ferry passengers to and from Kiana Lodge.

Registration begins February 1, 2008. Early registration is recommended as the conference is limited to 250 guests and has sold out in the past. Cost to attend is $135 if you register before February 28, 2008 and $150 after March 1, 2008. Groups of 5 or more can register for $130/person. To register for the 2008 Field’s End Writers’ Conference, visit

Founded in 2002, Field’s End is a writers’ community whose mission is to inspire writers and nurture the written word through lectures, workshops, and instruction in the art and craft of writing. Located across the Puget Sound from Seattle on beautiful Bainbridge Island, Field’s End is an affiliate of the nonprofit Bainbridge Public Library, which is located at 1270 Madison Avenue on Bainbridge Island. For more information, call (206) 842-4162 or visit


Kirsten Graham
Concept 2 Launch
(206) 890-3435

kirsten graham
c o n c e p t 2 l a u n c h, LLC
creative consultants

Ask almost any avid romance reader which book got her hooked on the genre, and she’ll likely name a title by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. For me, it was Shanna, which held me mesmerized behind my college math and poly sci textbooks and was a revelation to the budding writer in me.

Millions of readers were saddened by Kathleen’s passing. I was privileged to know her, having met her when she opened her amazing antebellum home to a group of writers who had come to Alexandria, Louisiana for a workshop. She was soft-spoken and gracious. You’d never know, to meet her, how vast her influence was on our industry. She was incredibly humble. To meet her, you’d never know she’d taken the publishing world by storm. My favorite room in her home? The Shanna master bath. It featured the original painting from the book cover and was done in the same lush color scheme.

I gave her a copy of one of my books, which she read and later told me she enjoyed it a lot. (I still have that letter in a special place, tucked into a signed copy of The Flame and the Flower.) Later, I’d get the occasional e-mail from her, letting me know she’d read my latest and giving me glimpses of her journey from Minnesota homemaker to blockbuster author, the likes of which publishing hadn’t seen since Grace Metalious or Jacqueline Susann. According to Kathleen, there were few expectations attached to her first book. She told me the initial print run target was about 30,000 but the actual number was a great deal higher–600,000. Although the book was not an immediate blockbuster, her next one, The Wolf and the Dove, hit #2 on the New York Times list, and a phenomenon was born.

Here’s a snippet of the opening of Shanna, the book that started it all for me and so many others. The writing speaks for itself. Even now, decades later, she takes me away, to another time and place. She was a true original.

Shanna“Surely, madam, you jest. To propose marriage to a man about to hang? Upon my word, I cannot see the logic in it.”

” ‘Tis a matter of some delicacy.” Shanna presented her back to him as if embarrassed and paused before continuing. She spoke demurely over her shoulder. “My father, Orlan Trahern, gave me one year to find a husband, and failure shall find me betrothed to whom he wills. He sees me a spinster and wants heirs for his fortunes. The man must be of a family privy to King George. I have not yet found the one I would choose as my own, though the year is almost gone. You are my one last hope to avoid a marriage arranged by my father.” Now came the hardest part. She had to plead with this filthy, ragged colonial. She kept her face averted to hide her distaste. “I have heard,’ she said carefully, “that a man may marry a woman to take her debts to the gallows in re turn for an easing of his final days. I can give you much, Ruark–food, wines, suitable clothing and warm blankets. And surely my cause–”

At his continued silence, Shanna turned toward him and tried to see his features in the gloom, but he had carefully maneuvered their positions until she now was presented full to the light when she faced him. The wily beggar had moved so stealthily that she had not been aware of it.

Ruark’s voice was somewhat strained as he finally said, “Milady, you test me sorely. A gentleman my mother tried to teach me to be, with good respect for womanhood.” Shanna’s breath caught as he stepped nearer. “But my father, a man of considerable wisdom, taught me early in my youth a rule I’ve long abided.”

He walked slowly around her, much as she had done with him a few moments before, then halted when he stood at her back. Scarcely breathing, Shanna waited, feeling his nearness yet not daring to move.

“Never–” Ruark’s whisper came close to her ear, stirring awake a tingling of fear in her. “Never buy a mare with a blanket on.”

Shanna could not suppress a flinch as his hands came over her shoulders and hovered above the fasteners of her cloak.

“May I?’ he asked and his voice, though soft, seemed to fill the very corners of the cell. Ruark accepted her silence as consent, and Shanna braced herself while his lean fingers undid the velvet frogs. He drew the cloak from her, and though lacking splendorous trimming and fancy laces, her deep red velvet gown enhanced her beauty divinely. She was the gem, the jewel of rare beauty which made the dress more than a garment but rather a work of art. Above the hooped panniers which expanded her skirt on the sides, the tightly laced bodice showed the narrowness of her waist while it cupped her bosom to a most daring display above the square decolletage. In the golden glow of the tallow lantern, her skin gleamed like rich, warm satin.

Ruark stood close, his breath falling softly against her hair, his head filled with the delicious scent of woman.

You knew there were several reasons you shouldn’t get your mom exotic cut flowers for Mother’s Day. (Or if you must, please buy locally, and get organically-grown flowers.)

Here are a few items any mother would love:

  1. A Bugzooka. She’ll never have to wipe a smeared dead bug from the window again, and she’ll feel like a humanitarian for setting them free outdoors.
  2. A nose egg separator. If you’re going to cook something, you might as well be entertained while doing it.
  3. A hostess apron so pretty that people won’t even expect you to cook.
  4. Or a Kashwere robe to sit around in all day and read novels.
  5. Three quick book recommendations: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGarde Smith or Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan.

And let’s be honest. The most treasured gift of all is time spent together, right? That’s what my mom’s getting this year. After the CRW conference, I’m heading down to have dinner with my parents and spend a few days in their company. What’s better than that?

‘Tis done. We talked, sang, laughed, cried, created, learned, ate and had an incredible day at the Field’s End conference. Thanks to all the amazing speakers and writers who participated. Special thanks to the Bainbridge Island Beach Cottage for providing accommodations. There’s a slide show of the event here. Happy writing to all!

FE conference

Authors Carol Cassella, Michael Donnelly, Mickey Molnaire at Kiana Lodge.

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June 2020